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Examiner.com


An Electric Car Mandate?

The editors of the Washington Examiner consider the probable effects of the new CAFE standards (being imposed by the EPA now instead of NHTSA) and ask a pertinent question:

Getting from the current 35 mpg CAFE standard to 54.5 can be achieved by such expedients as making air conditioning systems work more efficiently. We have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to anybody who thinks that’s even remotely realistic. There is one primary method of increasing fuel economy — weight reduction. That in turn means automakers will have to use much more exotic materials, including especially the petroleum-processing byproduct known as “plastic.” But using more plastic will make it much more difficult to satisfy current federal safety standards. The bottom-line will be much more expensive vehicles and dramatically fewer kinds of vehicles.

[...]

Total costs, as calculated by the EPA, will exceed $157 billion, making this by far the most expensive CAFE rule ever. For comparison, the previous rule in 2010 cost $51 billion, according to the EPA. But the EPA doesn’t include this fact in its calculation: Annual U.S. car sales are 14-16 million units, yet over time, this rule will remove the equivalent of half a year’s worth of buyers. Will that be when the EPA takes a cue from Obamacare and issues an individual mandate that we all must buy Chevy Volts?

I’m just curious, for those who support the individual mandate dictated by Obamacare, what is the argument that such an electric car mandate isn’t possible? If the federal government can force us to purchase insurance from the companies it allows to offer the product based on the idea that health care is a national issue, how is promoting cleaner air and more energy security not the same thing? Indeed, it would seem that the arguments are even stronger for forcing everyone to buy electric cars if furthering the “common good” is the only real restriction on federal power.

So what is the difference from a legal, constitutional standpoint? Is there one?


Julian Assange: Tattletale

[The original version of this post appeared at the Washington Examiner on Nov. 29, 2010]

Well somebody really doesn’t like the United States now, do they? Or perhaps, as childish antics often turn out to be, Julian Assange’s provocations are really cries for attention from the most powerful nation in the world. Then again, maybe he just needs a nap. Whatever the actual reasons, Mr. Assange and Wikileaks do not warrant being treated as public enemy number one.

Some disagree, of course, such as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who ranked Assange’s (and, consequently, suspected leaker Bradley Manning’s) actions as worse than al Qaeda’s:

“This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack,” King said.

King has written letters to both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for swift action to be taken against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

King wants Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and has also called on Clinton to determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

All hyperbole aside, Rep. King’s suggested course of action — i.e. pursuing judicial remedies — are a bit over the top, but at least somewhat within reason. I’m not sure that anything Assange has done is actually prosecutable since he did not steal the information, and there is no discernible difference between his release of the information and that of, say, the New York Times. But at least criminal prosecution is within the realm of reason.

I’ve heard others mention much more violent courses of action for Assange, up to and including assassination. That would be truly ludicrous, especially given that the information leaked thusfar has done little more than expose the diplomatic corps as petty, niggling and dishonest.

Is that even news? If exposing stuffed shirts to embarrassment is all that is necessary to hurl the globe into World War III, so much so that assassination is deemed an appropriate penalty for the likes of Assange, then that would sort of obviate the need for diplomats in the first place. And while a world without pompous and pampered scolds pretending to be in charge of everything does seem like paradise, knocking off some waifish ex-Aussie just seems like a really poor way of bring that about.

So what do we do then?

Well, the first thing would be for the U.S. government to get a better hold on anything it deems “secret” or “confidential.” Step 1 might include such precautions as limiting access to sensitive information to something less than 3 million people:

The US embassy cables are marked “Sipdis” – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military’s Siprnet internet system.

They are classified at various levels up to “secret noforn” [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn.

More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked “protect” or “strictly protect”.

Step 2 should probably involve an intense training program for all State Department personnel called “The Internet is Forever” including a two-day workshop on “What not to write in an email accessible by over 3 million people.”

Although I am being glib, I don’t find anything redeeming about the behavior of Assange and Wikileaks, and if there is some law akin to charging them with receipt of stolen goods, then sobeit. Bradley Manning, if he is indeed the leaker, should face much stiffer penalties, primarily because he was placed in a position of trust and he violated the duties commensurate with his position. Facing the death penalty for treason is too much, but a court martial and potential jail time would appear to fit the crime at this point.

What we should not do is overreact. Assange and his cronies are acting like children, and that’s how they should be treated — i.e. neither ignoring the bad behavior outright, nor giving undue attention that will ensure further incidents of such behavior. Getting into a high dudgeon just gives the insolent mite the reaction he’s looking for. It is true that the leaks have caused a great deal of embarrassment for the United States, but other than the first four French Republics, no nation has been rent assunder by embarrassment.

Let’s not act like that’s the danger we’re facing.


Sen. Boxer’s Rebellion

[This post originally appeared in the Washington Examiner on August 30, 2010.]

If there is one thing that Congress has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s that spending other people’s money is easy. What makes it even easier is when they spend it on favored constituents in order to buy votes, even where the product purchased by the government isn’t wanted or needed.

Take the example of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, a cargo transport aircraft, which is manufactured in Long Beach, California. While the plane is one of the military’s best workhorses (especially for forward deployments), the Air Force insists that it has plenty, more than enough in fact, and would really rather not purchase any more. Sen. Barbara Boxer, however, has other plans:

Locked in a tough re-election campaign, Sen. Barbara Boxer dropped by Boeing’s C-17 plant Friday [August 20, 2010] to pledge continued federal support for one of California’s largest manufacturers.

A crowd of cheering workers greeted Boxer at the site next to Long Beach Airport, where more than 5,000 design, build, market and sell the $250 million jet.

Boxer has remained one of the C-17 Globemaster’s strongest supporters on Capitol Hill since production began in the early 1990s, voting for all of the 223 jets so far ordered for the U.S. Air Force.

[...]

Before departing, Boxer promised the roughly 250 C-17 workers in attendance she would continue supporting the jet in Congress.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am that we have surpassed 200 planes, and that this magnificent aircraft is being built right here in California by American workers,” she said. “The only place the C-17 should ever be built is in California.”

To borrow a certain, infamous turn-of-phrase, they told me if I voted for John McCain I would be supporting the Military Industrial Complex, and they were right!

Well, that’s not entirely fair since, in reality, the Obama administration has been quite adamant that they’ve had quite enough C-17’s, thank you very much, and really don’t want anymore.

[In the end of June], the Obama Administration C-17 Challengers, led by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, continued to land blow after blow in the annual boxing match over the fate of the C-17 and the 5,000 Long Beach workers who assemble the big jets. The Obama Administration wants to end production after the 223 which are already in service or in the pipeline. Boeing, its friends in congress and everywhere else are doing everything they can to continue building the profitable four engine advanced airlifters.

In order to force the sale on the Air Force, Congress is threatening to include provisions ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the appropriation bill, forcing a painful veto decision on the White House. That does not seem to be changing the administration’s mind, however:

On Sunday [June 20, 2010], Gates was asked about the C-17 in an interview on Fox News by CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR. Here are the relevant excerpts:

WALLACE: As part of your new drive to try to cut the budget for non- combat operations, has the president agreed to veto any bill that would include continued funding for the C-17 cargo plane or an alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, even if that legislation also included repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell?”

GATES: Well, as I told the Senate Appropriations Committee, the defense subcommittee, this week, it would be a very serious mistake to believe that the president would not veto a bill that has the C-17 or the alternative engine in it just because it had other provisions that the president and the administration want.

WALLACE: Have you been given an assurance by the president that he will enforce his feelings, your feelings, about the budget even at the expense of social policy?

GATES: Well, I think the White House has put out a very strong statement in support. I would also just say that I don’t go way out on a limb without looking back to make sure nobody’s back there with a saw.

WALLACE: So you think that they veto the bill even with repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell?”

GATES: I think so.

The Obama administration has repeated its promise to veto any bill purchasing more C-17’s since then. Nevertheless, Sen. Boxer keeps pushing for the purchase despite the fact that, according to a defense industry insider, the Air Force already has more of the aircraft than it needs (223 purchased vs. 205 or less required, which is backed up by this 2008 GAO report), and may have a cheaper alternative in modernization of the complementary C-5 Galaxy aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Whatever the merits of the C-5 vs. the C-17, the Air Force and Department of Defense have been quite clear that they no longer want purchase the C-17, and the GAO concluded in 2008 that the C-17 program would have to end in the near term (slated to being next month), regardless of what some in Congress wanted.

The real story here is that leaders such as Sen. Boxer continue to be oblivious to what their duties actually are. She and her congressional colleagues persist in using taxpayer money to fund projects intended to keep them in power, but which add nothing to general welfare of the country. Will purchasing more C-17’s save jobs in Long Beach? Yes, but only for a little while, and only at the expense of more productive uses of the workers’ time (i.e. creating something that is actually wanted and needed). Meanwhile the appropriation costs taxpayers plenty and they get no benefit from it.

So long as our leaders in Washington continue to spend our money for their own benefit, and that of their friends, we will have ballooning deficits and a decreasingly productive economy. judging from the growing clamor of voices, such as in the Tea Party movement, the electorate gets that. Our tax dollars are not for keeping the already powerful entrenched. The real question is, when will Sen. Boxer and her friends in Washington finally figure it out?


Is The No-Fly List Unconstitutional?

I have an article up at The Washington Examiner that explores whether or not the rights of Yahya Wehelie are being violated. Mr. Wehelie has essentially been deported from the U.S. without any charges being brought against him, nor any due process whatsoever:

Yahya Wehelie, 26, said Wednesday that after landing at the airport in Cairo in early May, he was told he would not be able to board his connection to New York and would have to go to the U.S. Embassy for an explanation. Embassy officials later told Wehelie and a younger brother with whom he was traveling that they would have to wait for FBI agents to arrive from Washington.

[...]

Wehelie, who was born in the United States to Somali immigrants, said U.S. officials took his old passport and issued him a new one that was good only for a one-way trip to the United States. But, he said, he was also informed by an FBI agent that he cannot board any plane scheduled to enter U.S. or Canadian airspace, leaving him in a kind of limbo.

You can read my take at The Washington Examiner.

As an aside, is there any doubt that if this had happened during the Bush administration that the hue and cry from the MSM would have been deafening?

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